Bohn Selected as a Recipient for the Iowa Water Center’s Research Grant Competition

Ames, Iowa – The Iowa Water Center (IWC) annually administers a statewide grant competition known as the IWC Graduate Student Research Competition.

The purpose of this funding is to help graduate students to complete additional research objectives beyond the scope of their current work, with an emphasis on submitting their research to peer-reviewed publications.

Meyer Bohn is one the recipients, along with three other graduate students across Iowa. Each recipient will receive funding for various different research studies.

Bohn’s research focuses on mitigating soil and water degradation.

There are several programs for predictive agroecosystem modeling that are used to target solutions for soil and water quality issues in Iowa, but these models can be sensitive to soil input data. Soil maps that are available now use outdated information and lack the spatial resolution necessary for precision agroecosystem modeling. That is where Bohn comes in.

Bohn, along with his research advisor, Dr. Bradly Miller, have presented the idea of making soil maps through Digital Soil Mapping (DSM). The duo currently has a DSM project running in Story and Boone Counties, and are looking to widen their research to a “quad-county” study, including the counties: Osceola, Clay, Emmet and Dickinson.

There are two main purposes of this study. First, to create an updated soil map that can accurately target soil properties and spatial resolution. Second, to test the spatial models’ transferability used to construct the digital soil maps for their soil variation prediction capability in the greater Des Moines Lobe area.

Get to know Meyer Bohn, a PhD student at Iowa State University.

Bohn is originally from North Dakota and chose to attend Iowa State University for not only the unparalleled agriculture work and research performed there, but also because of his advisor, Dr. Bradley Miller. Dr. Miller is an assistant professor in the Department of Agronomy at Iowa State University and is considered by many as one of the leading digital soil mapping researchers in the field.

Bohn also explained the benefit of living in Iowa as a soil scientist with an emphasis in digital soil mapping.

“Iowa is a particularly important place for improving soil map accuracy and precision. Our understanding of how soil properties vary in space has crucial implications for agricultural production and water quality. Iowa’s agricultural wealth and prosperity stems directly from the state’s rich abundance of inherently fertile prairie soils. This great wealth coincides with a critical responsibility, finding the balance between intensive agricultural production while sustaining soil and water quality.”

With the knowledge Bohn holds on the current state of soil maps, he knew that his research plans could make a significant improvement to the foundation of water and soil research throughout Iowa. This led him to apply for the IWC Graduate Student Research Competition.

Bohn shared that his favorite part of the research process is field work.

“I get to travel across the state sampling soils with a hydraulic probe mounted on the back of a pick-up truck,” said Bohn. “I get to see soils in ways that a textbook or journal article could never articulate, and I’ve met some incredible people along the way. The farmers of Iowa are some of the most genuine and charitable people I’ve ever met.”

Bohn also mentioned that he likes to focus on the cartography part of his research process. Cartography is the work of drawing out maps. Bohn shared that mastering the art of cartography was necessary to accurately communicate his research results. Although reaching the final product he is satisfied with can be challenging, it is very rewarding.

When Bohn isn’t in the field researching soils or perfecting maps, he enjoys being in the outdoors, such as camping, fishing, hunting and hiking. He also plays the guitar, and shared that if he ended up not being a soil scientist, he would have probably become a country music singer. On behalf of Iowa’s soil and water quality, we are so glad he chose the career that he did.

Working to Reduce Farm Nutrient Loss in Iowa

By: Malcolm Robertson, Program Coordinator and Lecturer, Iowa Nutrient Research Center, Iowa State University

From Getting Into Soil and Water 2018

The Iowa Nutrient Research Center (INRC) was established in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University by the Iowa Board of Regents in response to legislation passed by the Iowa Legislature in 2013. More information is available at https://www.cals.iastate.edu/nutrientcenter

The center pursues a science-based approach to nutrient management research. Through its work, the performance of current and emerging nutrient management practices is evaluated, new nutrient management practices are developed and recommendations are initiated for implementation of nutrient management practices.

The primary role of the center is to fund science-based research that explores innovative approaches that identify gaps and needs in nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) research to address Iowa’s water quality issues.

Center research evaluates the performance of current and emerging field practices and develops tools to help farmers and landowners adopt effective management practices. Successful research outcomes will minimize the loss of nutrients into Iowa surface and groundwater. Through this research, the INRC will test the performance of current and advanced farmland management, land use and edge-of-field practices on reducing N and P loss.

The center will also develop tools that aid in decision-making and promotions for the adoption of new technologies and creative solutions for more sustainable management practices.

Working with researchers and farmers, the Iowa Nutrient Research Center funded more than 50 research projects from 2013 to 2017, led by more than 80 scientists at Iowa’s three Regents universities. The center’s competitive grants program has awarded nearly $6 million for research since 2013.

These funds are highly leveraged by water-quality scientists, who have successfully brought in over $17 million in grants from many federal and state agencies across five years. Some key results from center-funded research to date include:

  • Field and lab experiments are improving the understanding of winter cover crop management and impacts on corn yield.
  • Saturated buffers are evaluated to better assess their ability to remove nitrates from tile flow.
  • Research is evaluating the effectiveness of practices implemented around the edges of fields, such as planting strips of prairie and restoring stream banks.
  • Work is underway to better understand farm profitability impacts of precision conservation and grazing cover crops.
  • Intensive research at a watershed in Boone County is providing new insights on the contributions of stream bed and bank erosion to phosphorus transport.
  • Research is more precisely examining the movement of nutrients to surface waters.
  • How trading nutrient credits may benefit cities and farmers – and water quality – is explored in a pilot project watershed near Dubuque.
  • Work on research farms and in farmers’ fields is evaluating types of native perennials for prairie strips to reduce soil erosion and nutrient loss.
  • Research is seeking to improve performance and reduce costs of bioreactors, the practice that filters field drainage water with wood chips

In 2017 the center funded 12 projects with a total award value of almost $550,000. Below is a list of the projects awarded in 2017:

  • Total Phosphorus Loads in Iowa Rivers and Estimation of Steam Bank Phosphorus Contribution
  • Water Quality Evaluation of Prairie Strips across Iowa
  • Woodchip Bioreactors for Improved Water Quality
  • Limiting Nitrogen Immobilization in Cover Crop Systems • Amounts and Forms of Dissolved Phosphorus Lost with Surface Runoff as Affected by Phosphorus Management and Soil Conservation Practices
  • Delivery-Scale Evaluation and Modeling of Nutrient Reduction Practices • Improving the Effectiveness of Conservation Programs through Innovative Reverse Auctions and Sensible Enrollment Restrictions
  • Baseline Assessment of Geisler Farm Site: Collection of Pre BMP Monitoring Data
  • Does Quantity and Quality of Tile Drainage Water Impact In-stream Eutrophication Potential? Evidence from a Long Term Biofuel Cropping Systems Experiment
  • Successful Voluntary Watershed Improvement Projects: Do Short-Term Adoption and Outreach Lead to Attitude Changes and Long-Term Sustainable Practice Adoption?
  • Impacts of Cover Crops on Phosphorus and Nitrogen Loss with Surface Runoff
  • Evaluation of Measurement Methods as Surrogates for Tile Flow Nitrate-N Concentrations

In addition to these projects, the center also allocated $367,000 to the University of Iowa to fund a network of water-quality sensors deployed throughout eastern Iowa. These advanced remote sensors collect water-quality data that are relayed back to IIHR Hydroscience and Engineering every few minutes. The data are disseminated on a public website.

The Iowa Nutrient Research Center is dedicated to supporting impactful research in nutrient reduction. As new information, data and science become available, the center believes that the adoption of in-field and edge-of-field practices will increase, resulting in improved water quality through reduced nitrogen and phosphorus losses.

Background to the Iowa Nutrient Research Center’s Work

Scientifically Proven Effective Practices. Iowa leads the nation in corn and soybean production. Research has shown that a variety of management practices can mitigate the loss of nutrients from crop field soils. The goal is to get more of these scientifically proven practices implemented. The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy science team, led by Iowa State University scientists, developed a list of in-field and edge-of-field practices that could reduce nutrient loss from farm lands (http://www.nutrientstrategy.iastate.edu/presentations). Nutrient and soil management practices conducted within field boundaries to mitigate nutrient loss from row-cropped acres, and are known as in-field nutrient management.

Nutrient Loss Reduction – Nitrogen. There are a number of practices that reduce nitrogen loss, including in-field nitrogen management practices such as fertilizer application timing, fertilizer source, application rate, nitrification inhibitors, cover crops and living mulches. Additional in-field practices that reduce N loss include land use changes such as the addition of perennials, extended rotations and pastures for livestock. Edge-of-field practices may take a variety of forms and include practices and/or structures such as drainage water management, shallow drainage, wetlands, bioreactors and buffers.

Nutrient Loss Reduction – Phosphorus. There are a number of in-field phosphorus management practices that may be adopted to reduce P loss, include fertilizer application, source and placement; erosion control or land use change practices such as tillage, crop choice, perennials and terraces. Wetlands, buffers and sediment control are edge-of-field practices that have been shown to reduce phosphorus loss

Albright Selected as a Recipient for the Iowa Water Center’s Institute Research Grant Competition

Written by Sarah Feehan, Communications Specialist, Iowa Water Center

AMES, IOWA – The Iowa Water Center (IWC) annually administers a statewide grant competition known as the IWC Graduate Student Research Competition.

The purpose of this funding is to enable graduate students to complete additional research objectives beyond the scope of their current work, with an emphasis on submitting their research to peer-reviewed publications.

Ellen Albright has been selected among three other graduate students from across Iowa. She and the other recipients will receive funding for a variety of proposed research.

Albright Headshot
Ellen Albright, PhD Student at Iowa State University.

Albright’s proposed research focuses on internal phosphorus loading in shallow lakes, as well as management strategies to prevent and help mitigate harmful algal blooms. It is titled ‘Developing Methods to Measure Internal Phosphorus Loading in Iowa Lakes’.

“I’m interested in internal phosphorus loading, which is the release of phosphorus from lakebed sediments into the overlying water,” Albright says. Phosphorus is a limiting nutrient that can cause harmful algal blooms in lakes. Phosphorus stored at the bottom of lakes in sediment can be re-released into the water due to wind disturbance or fish stirring up the sediment.

Associate Director of the IWC Melissa Miller says, “Water Resources Research Institutes like the Iowa Water Center were authorized by Congress in part to address emerging water resources concerns through research. Harmful algal blooms are a high-priority topic in the nation. Ms. Albright’s work will not only contribute to the body of knowledge on internal phosphorus loading, but will also contribute a new, scalable sampling method,” Miller says.

Albright says, “Internal phosphorus loading can maintain high nutrient levels in our lakes. And it’s not very well understood in the shallow lakes we have here in Iowa. It can also impact how effective watershed nutrient reduction strategies are at achieving water quality goals.”

Get to know Ellen Albright, PhD Student at Iowa State University

Albright grew up in a small town just outside of Madison, Wisconsin, called Cottage Grove. Her main area of research is limnology, or the study of inland waters such as lakes, rivers, and wetlands.

“My interest in limnology started during a summer undergrad position that I had with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I worked at a field station they run in northern Wisconsin called Trout Lake Station,” Albright says.

Albright and Field Work
Albright conducting field research.

She had a variety of positions there every summer of her undergraduate career. And while she was working there, she learned that she really enjoys research time and enjoys studying lakes.

“While I was there, I got excited about the process of collecting ecological data and knowing that data can help us make decisions and better manage freshwater resources. I think those are the experiences that really sparked the interests I have now,” Albright says.

Throughout and in between the field work days and lab work days, Albright is constantly working with other students, especially in the summertime.

Albright says, “I enjoy training our undergrad researchers for the different roles we have in our lab and encouraging them to pursue independent research projects. I find that mentoring is a really rewarding part of my job.”

In her free time, Albright enjoys getting outdoors. “It’s very relaxing for me. I like to go for walks, go birding, fishing, and get out on the water,” Albright says.


 For more information about this year’s recipients, please visit https://iawatercenter.wordpress.com/. To reference the general press release for all four recipients, please visit: http://www.water.iastate.edu/news/iowa-water-center-announces-2019-grant-recipients.

The Iowa Water Center is a federally funded organization, part of the National Institutes for Water Resources. Located on the Iowa State University campus, it is one of 54 institutes located throughout the United States and U.S territories. The purpose of the Iowa Water Center is to identify water-related research needs, provide outreach and education opportunities, and disseminate information about Iowa’s water resources to the public to form better policies and everyday practices. Learn more at https://www.water.iastate.edu/.


0Sarah Feehan is the communications specialist for the Iowa Water Center. She holds a BS in Journalism and Mass Communication with a minor in Political Science from Iowa State University. In fall of 2019, Feehan will begin acquiring her JD from Drake Law School.